The Green Book
The Green Book stands as a symbol for the totalitarian regime imposed by its author Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and more generally, for the process of ideological manipulation. Required read for every citizen, the book sets out the principles of a global political theory, simply called “Third Universal Theory”, which effectively paralyzed the nation for nearly forty years. It reads: “The Green Book announces to the people the happy discovery of the way to direct democracy […], the problem of democracy in the world is finally solved”. Based on unintelligible statements such as “Nationalism in the world of man and group instinct in the animal kingdom are like gravity in the domain of mineral and celestial bodies”, it unfolds over 24 chapters, one for each hour of the day. Gaddafi symbolically invades every slot of freedom, interfering in individuals’ real-time in order to recondition their free will.
In this series, Jehad Nga technically applies to images the same treatment that Gaddafi inflicted on his people. The details of the process – an alteration of the binary essence of the image by integrating the text of the book in its code – are superfluous but lay the foundations for a distortion of reality via an alienation of the photographic grammar. It was legitimate to respond to Gaddafi’s Manichean vision with a binary system. So was it to choose a method that scratches the image and seems to put the subject behind brightly colored bars. The result is blinding: oozing photographs irradiated by indefinable particle beams that explode in straight lines and obscure the background. Despite their inevitable and passive metamorphosis, the images seem to transfigure in an act of resistance. They evoke encrypted TV programs in an open reference to censorship and mass culture. The dramatic fusion between the original image and the scars of its alteration creates a visual tension that amplifies the strangeness of the iconography. The 24 photographs selected to respectively contain the 24 chapters of the book were captured in Libya by satellite in the incessant flow of information. They draw a fantasized portrait of reality, one made of topless bodies, luscious mouths, bundles of dollars and other teasing or mundane images that we imagine were largely censored by Gaddafi’s regime.
Captions contribute sarcasm. A direct reference to each chapter of The Green Book, they respond to the images as puns or metaphors: elephants as an endangered minority, inhaled oxygen on the surface of the water as a need, gun as an instrument of power. Cynicism and optimism mingle in this depiction of the mechanisms of power and mind control. It is needless to say that social hierarchy relies on a restriction of access to knowledge, but here, by blurring images and thus making the subject difficult to identify, Jehad Nga paradoxically offers an area of freedom: that of the imagination, which no totalitarian regime can totally erase. This is a plea for the future and the political reconstruction of Libya. At a time when he no longer needed to prove himself on the field as a photojournalist, he allowed himself time to consider the characteristics of the medium in order to reflect on the role of virtual content in contemporary society; on its regulation and the methods for manipulating reality on a large scale.
The project will be showing at Bonni Benrubi Gallery in New York in April and at M+B Gallery in Los Angeles.